Agriculture gathering seeks answers for new questions

Innovation will be the theme at the upcoming Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development. It gets under way later this month in Uruguay.

The conference, known as GCARD II, will consider the challenges that farmers may face in 20 to 30 years, and try to come up with solutions now.

Monty Jones, a professor who was the winner of the 2004 World Food Prize, will chair the conference. He says it will differ from the first GCARD meeting in Montpellier, France in 2010:

“This time it’s not just scientists talking to themselves; it’s scientists talking to the other players that matter very much, particularly this farmers, the farmer’s group, the NGO group, all these other players. Their voices are now being heard in agricultural research for development.”

Jones is head of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. He said GCARD has published a road map to transform agricultural research so it can have a major impact on development. It’s called foresight thinking.

“The tendency for most of us is to look at problems that occur today, and then try to solve those problems. This particular program on foresight thinking is trying to make projection into the future, particularly in a world of climate change and associated problems, like drought and floods, and aggravated problems of disease and insect pests,” he said.

Jones was awarded the World Food Prize for discovery of a genetic process that led to a protein-rich, high yield rice. It’s called NERICA, which stands for New Rice for Africa.

Jones said other innovations include methods to save the cassava plant, elimination of the animal disease rinderpest and the Green Revolution in Asia. Jones believes such a green revolution eventually will come to Africa.

GCARD II will be held in Punta del Este, Uruguay from Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.

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